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Historic Newry Streets Have Special Re-Union


MEMORIES of the `good old days’ at some of Newry’s most historic thoroughfares was revived when residents and ex-pats from the Chapel Street and Kilmorey Street area held a re-union in 2005.

An ad hoc committee, consisting of John Duffy, Paddy Smith, Mrs Assumpta Hyland, nee McGrath; Frances Duffy and Peter Keenan, began compiling a list of those who once lived in the area, including Boat Street, River Street, William Street, Home Avenue, Custom House Avenue and Quay Street. Representatives from those localities were also co-opted.

Most prominent aspects of the district have been St Mary’s `Old Chapel` and cemetery; the Gasworks, the Bridewell Prison, - later a Fever Hospital; Convent of Mercy Home, the `Dutch Houses`, and the castle above the rocks on the High Walk at Chapel Street.

What diverse personalities have resided in that region, especially Chapel Street, which has witnessed most of the town’s population make their last journey on earth, en route to St Mary’s Cemetery. It was also the route of Easter Commemoration Parades during the 50’s and 60’s.

Soccer superstars Peter McParland and Pat Jennings have lived there; also actor and comedian, Jimmy Canavan and his son, Sean; Tomas McArdle, Gaelgeoir; Keith Duffy of Coronation Street, whose aunt Phyllis still resides there; Brother Desmond Jennings and Sister Josephine Rooney; Cllrs Niall McAteer and Patrick Quinn-Bennett; Oliver McGauley of angling fame; Sam McAlpine (Belfast Telegraph), Raymond Gorman, accountant (USA), as well as John Duffy, architect and pioneer of the community movement.

Tradesmen were well-represented, including hairdressers Jackie Gorman, Seamus Jennings and George Massey; butchers Frank, Jimmy and Jack McElroy; baker Raymond Jennings; Tom McKeown, printer; Tom Daly, plumber; Jimmy (Darkie) McKevitt, John McAteer, and Mick McDonald (dockers); Sea-captain; Peter Keenan, `Tubs` Keenan, factory gateman; Mickey Griffen (AOH) as well as Henry Stokes, postman.

Also on the sporting front were the Bannon brothers, founders of Newry Mitchels GFC, winners of the county senior championship; their sister, Belle, president of the All-Ireland Camogie Association, as well as Paddy Duffy and John Feenan, who won International caps. Jimmy Hooks played for several English clubs, and was physio to Down’s Sam Maguire Cup winning sides. Also, Tom McAteer starred with Newry Mitchels and the Down Juniors.

Of course, the Newry Shamrocks FC side, managed by Ritchie Hollywood and including Peter McParland, `Pa` Hollywood, `Midge` O’Hanlon and `Mugsie` McCamley, won a host of trophies, just like an earlier Newry Celtic side, drawn from the locality. `Peter the Great`, just like Pat Jennings, went on to win fame and glory in the FA Cup, and starring for Northern Ireland in the World Cup.

Peter’s sister, Mrs Teresa McKeown, recalled that Chapel Street had “the best of neighbours, who helped each other out, and kept an eye on each other’s children. There was never any trouble. We girls would sit on the door-step, or on the High Walk, playing rounders, hop-skotch or swinging around lamp-posts.”

Many of the family, - Frank (RIP), Mrs Mary McGladdery, Mrs Eileen Markey, Margaret and Peter, had been born in Water Street, where their father John ran a public house. They moved to Chapel Street at an early age, occupying a house in front of the Convent of Mercy Home.

Frank, who died in 2001, had gone to Birmingham, and got a job as an assemblyman at Rover’s car-plant. He was in lodgings with my uncle Hugh, while `big Frank` O’Neill was next-door; and Peter later took digs with Aston Villa team-mate and Irish International Con Martin, on the other side of `Brum. The foursome would meet up for golf every weekend.

By coincidence, Hugh Boyle and his family, including the future Fr Willie and Ryder Cup golfer, Hugh (junior), lived for a short time at Chapel Street in Newry, having left Omeath after the Civil War. A daughter, Adie, resided at the sea-front in Omeath, until her early death. Teresa reported that her brother, Frank, had enjoyed his time in the Boyle household, before getting married to a `Brum girl.

Meanwhile, Pat Jennings, whose Whitecross-born mother died recently, progressed from cutting down trees as timber for Fisher’s, to a promising soccer career. Launched with the Newry United side which won the Irish Junior Cup, then with Newry Town, on to Watford, Spurs and Arsenal, winning not only fame for his ability as a goal-keeper, but respect for his demeanour and sportsmanship.

It was a far cry from the youth, who would bring Peter McParland’s boots to Edward Street Station, where he would arrive from work in Dundalk to play in an evening game for Newry Shamrocks F.C. From our back-garden at O’Neill Avenue, we were able to watch the Jennings boys, - Pat, Brian and Gerry, along with sister Marie, have a kickabout in their back-yard at Upper Chapel Street.

One of the main organises of the forthcoming re-union, Paddy Smith of the High Walk, is the son of a postman, the family also consisting of Tom, Ronnie, Gene, Vera, Josie, Yvonne, Sheila and Eileen. They were born in the castle above the Rocks. Built for a Newry Commissioner, and known as Hallidays’s Folly, it was purchased by the Earl of Kilmorey and rented to the Smith family, who found it difficult to maintain. Des McGennity later moved in.

Employed at Damolly Mill, Paddy served in the Merchant Navy; then in England, before coming home, where he joined the Civil Rights Movement, - the rest is history!

A member of the St Joseph’s and Independent Band Club for 40 years, he is also involved with the newly-formed Newry Concert Band, which recently entertained at Newry City Hall. It rehearses in the Indo Club.

Recalling his younger days on the High Walk, Paddy Smith described how a group would go fishing, led by Alec Daly, later a ships engineer. They would include Oliver McGauley, John McAteer, Harry Stokes, Tom McKeown, PJ (Musky) Cunningham, Jim Bannon and Raymond Gorman.

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© Fabian Boyle 2001-2008